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Old 04-19-2009, 09:07 PM   #1
Earning My Ears
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Drive 17 hours straight or stop over night?

I need some advice from veteran travelers!! Here's my "issue" do we leave (we live in Northeast Ohio) for our FIRST FAMILY DISNEY TRIP at 6:00 AM and drive till 7:00pm and sleep overnight somewhere OR do we leave at 4:00pm and drive straight thru?????

I'm thinking the best way to travel with 3 kids (7, 6, 2) is to leave at 4pm and hopefully they will sleep most of the way there (or at least a big chunk of the time). DH is a police officer who works midnights so the driving during the night isn't an issue.

Although he prefers to leave in the morning, travel all day get a hotel and sleep, then get up and travel MORE. My thinking is then thats two days of traveling with little ones vs. getting it all done in one shot.

HELP! Any suggestions or advice about good or bad experiences would be very much appreciated!!!
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Second WDW vacation - May 2014

Last edited by Mom2B&R; 04-19-2009 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:18 PM   #2
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We drove from Michigan this last March and that took us 21 hours. We started out at 2:00p.m. and didn't really start to get tired until about 1:00a.m. My husband doesn't like to ride with me so much so he did all the driving. We first thought we would stop at gas stations every 4 hours but during the early morning we needed to get out every 3 hours and get some fresh air. My niece and her husband left from the same area and drove pretty much the same way except they had 3 children. The kids did real well and slept pretty much the whole night. Their ages are 8,4,and 1 1/2. On the way to Orlando they knew there condo would not be ready so they stopped at the ocean to let the kids play. On our way back we stopped in Indiana to spend the night and that really helped because we were tired from the vacation. My niece and her husband did not and that turned into a very long ride back because everyone was so tired already before starting. She said they would not do that again on the way back. Hope it all works out.
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:23 PM   #3
Earning My Ears
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We did our first and only all-nighter on our way back from Disney in 2007. Yes, the kids slept great all the way home and were in great shape when we got back home about 8am, us parents, on the other hand.....

I think splitting up your drive will be better because you will be rested the next day when you arrive. I don't know what you have planned for your 1st day, but I would rather arrive after a good nights sleep than having been in the car for hours on end.

Good luck and have a great trip!

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Old 04-19-2009, 09:26 PM   #4
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We drive 12 straight through and sometimes I think that's pushing it. I know our 2 year old will be very ready to get out of the car. Something to think about is the fact that the little guys can really get fatigued strapped into their car seats for that length of time. Even when they are asleep, they can't move enough to "take the pressure off" after an extended period. We sometimes even break this into two days and make the stops fun. My vote would definitely be to break up the trip and enjoy the journey. Something that's positive about the second day of travel is that everyone will be more rested and in a better mood when you arrive at the World.

Good luck deciding!
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:29 PM   #5
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Thats a tuff one. We also have a 17-18 hour drive and I would love to drive through...but then someone is very tired (the one who drove all night) and you still want to do something with the children, because they are wide awake after sleeping all night. We ended up stopping in southern Georgia and continuing in the morning, then we made our stop at the store bought supplies and checked into hotel before we went onto our special plans for the day (Hubby and DS went to see the Tigers vs Braves at Wide World of Sports, and DD and I went to AK....its soooo cheap to add another day when you are already buying 5 days!)
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:31 PM   #6
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We leave in the late afternoon, stop just ino Louisiana for dinner then don't stop until Plant City for breakfast except for gas. The kids will put on a movie and then sleep through the night. I do, however, reccommend a stop overnight on the way home. You will be very tired and a good night sleep is safer. Have a great trip!
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:31 PM   #7
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We have 2 kids ( DD7 and DS4) and have been driving since they were babies. We live in southwestern PA and we drive straight through, however we leave at 6 am and drive all day. Our rule is we stop when the kids need to stop, if they need to use the restroom then we make sure we do then too and get gas on that stop too even if we could still go for awhile without getting gas we still fill up. We take snacks and stop for lunch and dinner, but they are always on the go foods like subs or something. Our first trip we did not drive straight through and it actually seemed to be worse on the kids and us, they were cracky and so were we, now we just want to get there. We have friends that drive through the night and drive straight through and that is what works for them and their kids, so it really is whatever works best for you. I hope you have a magical trip!
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:38 PM   #8
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We are about 15 hours from Disney and 17 hours from my parents. We find the best way is to break it up into two days going down to Disney or my parents. Otherwise, we are too wiped to have any fun, but the kids are raring to go. I just can't sleep in the car.

We just came back from my parents and drove straight home. It was doable and my DH was fine, but I got nothing accomplished that day at home!
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:40 PM   #9
Earning My Ears
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We live in southern Ohio and always drive straight through. We have a full size high top van, so that really helps. We have a 19 yr old, 14 yr old with special needs and a 9 yr old. We travel to my dads in southern Florida every other year or so as well a Disney. We leave about 7 or so in the evening and arrive by noon the next day. It does make for a long night, changing drivers every 2 hours or so, but it is so much better with the kids. We have been traveling like this for years. As long as you plan a light day for the first day, I would recommend going straight though. For our trip next month, I am planning on doing some light swimming when we get there around noon to let the kids get some pent up energy out and relax a little then do a park for a few hours later in the day / evening and hit the ground early the next day.
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:46 PM   #10
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Don't do straight through...that's my opinion.

We did the trip in January from NJ...we drove 11 hours to hilton head and spent the night and then drove the other 5 hours the next morning..we left at around 9am and got into disney at about 3pm...bc of stops.

I learned a lot on this your kids won't sleep when you want them to. We left at 2am thinking that they would get in the car and sleep for a few hours...that did not happen. They were awake til we stopped at 6:30 am for breakfast.

Our trip went very smoothly bc of having lots of activities and movies...but I don't think it is safe to drive that least for us it is not.

Coming home we were much more tired so we spent 2 nights in Hilton Head. The drive home took longer...more stops for the kids.

Good luck
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:52 PM   #11
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We drive about 18 hours too. I've done both. Our kids are excellent travelers. I highly, highly


recommend stopping. Did I say STOP!! yet?

Ahem. Well.
We start at 4 am. The kids sleep the night before in cozy clothes, and trundle sleepily into the van with their blankies and pillows.

Around 8 am we stop for doughnuts and coffee.

Around 12 noon we get go to a grocery store and buy some sandwich stuff. We play hide and seek and jump rope at a handy park or rest stop.

Around 3 pm we start to stop at the welcome centers, picking up the hotel flyers to see who has a pool, wi-fi and a decent price. Complimentary bfast is a plus too.

DH decides to stop around 5 to 6 pm. We swim. We eat. We chortle madly about Disney. We sleep. We get up about 7 am. Have breakfast, maybe swim again, and head out.

The advantages of this system is that DH doesn't get into a driving obsession and feel the need to keep going. We're allowed out every couple hours to pee. Our knees don't feel like they'll never straighten again. No one threatens to kill the children within their earshot. We're all still feeling happy about Disney and going together the next day. No one cries.

However, my experience with traveling straight through...

Kids are too excited to sleep much on the way down.
Kids are so excited they are bored and bouncy, shrill and shreeky.
Kids are given snacks and drinks to shut them up.
Kids have to pee.
Driver becomes exasperated with amount of stopping.
Driver needs to stop in unfamiliar places in the middle of the night for peeing.
Driver gets on wrong road, or the right road going the wrong way. Or the right road going the right way, but it's so blasted DARK in North Carolina at night, who KNOWS where you are anyway!!! Ahem.

So, after escaping the military school grounds, you get back on the interstate. Only to keep going. And going. And going.

Children begin to moan uncontrollably with despair. Oh wait, that was me.

By the time you get to Disney, you are fried. Beyond exhausted. I was awake the one time we did it for over 38 hours. Our shirts all read "We're too excited to sleep!" I was. I was not a nice woman, however.

We drove straight through with two drivers, two elementary school kids, and 9 high school seniors. And me. I was shotgun the whole time. I kept the drivers awake. I plugged the various ipods in to the cassette adaptor, navigated, and interpreted the various shrieks and moans into intelligible commands for the driver, "I need to pee." "I need to get out NOW." "If we don't stop right NOW I'm going to puke." "Even if we do stop NOW, I'll puke, so stop NOW so I can do it outside."

Did I mention that my daughter and son developed strep while in Disney on that trip? On the way home I sat behind the drivers, on a short bench seat. My knees never unbent. Everytime I started to drift off, my head would sag, causing my neck to spasm and snap me back to wakefulness. DS just leaned on me and was sad. DD puked in every state on the way home except Maryland and Pennsylvania. In the middle of the night. In the dark on I95. Stumbling onto the shoulder of the highway in the dark. Puking helplessly. Couple times she tumbled down the side of the road into the ditch. Only once did I step on a fire ant hill in my sandals while trying to help her.

DH offered to stop for the night with only 4 hours to go, but we were all so numb with despair, illness, and exhaustion that we just stared at him in horror. Prolong this agony? PLEASE just get us HOME!

I do not recommend driving straight through with children. Trust me when I say that if you decide to do so anyway, I'll pray for you.
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Old 04-19-2009, 09:54 PM   #12
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We have about the same driving time as you. ( PA) And the thing is you cant 100% know ahead of time what will be best.

We like and prefer to go straight through but a few things can help or hurt that choice.

Weather ( bad can add hours to a trip , or if its good make it hours faster)

Traffic ( low traffic can cut your estimated travel time down by hours and lots of traffic can add hours of misery)

Construction ( If you have AAA ask them for a trip tik that will let you know ahead of time where construction might be taking place)

The time you leave ( Leave at 4 am and you are good , leave any later and forget about it) Not to mention you want to be through any major citys before rush hour if driving on a weekday.

Time stopped ( You would be suprised how a "quick" pit stop can turn into a good long hour. Plan ahead and it will make getting on the road faster.

Make sure that you get out of the car every few hours to stretch a bit. I believe its reccomended every 2 hours but its not really practical to me. I say we have gone as long as 6 hours but every 4 is best . 6 is really probaly way to long. Its just when everyone is sleeping you dont want to stop.

And lastly after a 17 ish hour drive you will be sore! Plan on giving yourself a chance to hop in a cool pool or relax the naxt day if you can. I learned the hard way that cool water helps the soreness much more than hot tubs. Really sped up my recovery.

If you do try to go straight through I personally reccomend trying to leave at 3 or 4 am. If you try to leave at night you will fighting road hypnosis along with fighting what your body is telling you is your normal time to sleep.

Go to bed at 7 pm ( or try) and get up at 3 am and you will have only lost a few hours of regular sleep and be to your destination at around your regular bedtime. Which you will appreciate more than ever before!

If you leave in the evening thinking kids will sleep be warned , kids never sleep when they know they are on the way to Disney! lol
Just a little Disney magic to share with you

Last edited by cinderella73; 04-19-2009 at 10:15 PM.
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Old 04-19-2009, 10:22 PM   #13
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Last year a this time we were driving from MA to Disney. We started at 8p on Friday and drove 20 hours straight down to Savanah Georgia only because the kids begged us to stop. Honestly I would NEVER drive straight down again!!! By the time we got to Disney we were exhausted. Worst vacation for us. On the way back we stopped at Viriginia at a gem mining place an then we stopped at NY to see the Statue of Liberty. Viriginia was overnight, NY was on the way home.

Don't drive straight down.

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Old 04-19-2009, 10:29 PM   #14
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We are only 10hours away but we decided this past Dec to drive straight thru, we left at 6 am and got caught in 2 hours of traffic outside of Atlanta and another 2 hours of traffic in Valdosta...tack no another 2 hours of stop time (lunch, bathroom breaks, gas, dinner) it was 11:45 when we first arrived at the hotel..... and then to find out they have overbooked and we had no room.

We are going in May, we will be stopping half way this time, no way I am doing another 16 hour drive EVER. My kids are 4 and 8.5 yrs old, they did great considering the circumstances but OMG never never never never again.

If you can afford it, honestly I would stop and get a good nights rest atleast half way thru or a little more than halfway but I wouldn't drive it all.

Have a great trip!
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Old 04-19-2009, 10:35 PM   #15
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